Flint Water Crisis: The Mistakes Made, The Lives Affected
(Editor's note: A consolidated edit of this ongoing project was named a 2017 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Feature Photography, a 2016 SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Award, the 2016 Barry Edmonds Michigan Understanding Award, as well as statewide Associated Press, MPPA and MPA awards.)
The Flint water crisis raged for more than a year. Almost silently.
Residents complained about the taste,
the odor, the color. They shouted. They pled. Something’s just not right, they
said. Please believe us.
Politicians proclaimed the water safe. VIPs denied a problem existed.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe — but there was a time when the world didn’t understand the monumental problems Flint, Michigan, faced, and that is water was causing lead to leech from its pipes and into the homes, showers and mouths of its residents.
There was a time, when residents’ words, actions and frustrations were ignored. Out of site. Out of mind.
Since April 2014 with the push of a button by the city’s then-mayor and the decisions made by the state’s Emergency Management leaders, Flint’s pipes began to corrode. It did not happen overnight, but overtime, the evidence became more and more clear. And people began to fall ill.
By January 2015 people protested in the streets in small groups. The local and state officials looked the other way. The issue soared to national attention after a Virginia Tech professor brought water data to the public, which showed absurdly and abnormally high lead levels in the drinking water supply. A pediatrician found equally alarming lead levels in a number of local children.
People began to pay attention. By January 2016, as Flint entered into its second full year without clean water, the nation’s eyes quickly turned to the city, its residents and the effects the water was having on their lives.
Through the tears of children being lead tested, we learned the consistent, unnecessary scarring Flint’s youth was forced to endure with uncertainty that the physical and mental damage done to the city’s children can ever be repaired. Children have to take baths with only bottled water, never having the opportunity to splash around in a warm bath filled to the brim just to soak it in.
Local, state and national officials were forced to speak in Congressional hearings and many face a series of criminal charges for what they knew and, for not speaking up about it before and while it happened.
Make no mistake, this was clarified a man-made disaster. Many point blame at Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his team of emergency managers, as well as the DEQ.
A community was poisoned. And ignored.
This entire city faces an overhaul on its infrastructure because of lead-tainted drinking water through mismanaged political oversight, leading to a spike in elevated blood lead levels in thousands of children. The people are hurting, still today.
Rashes and hair loss. Bathing with
bottled water. Hell, drinking and cooking with it too. Case after case. The
people want answers. The people want a solution. They feel the cannot trust the
government as much as they cannot drink their own tap water.
Follow the latest news on the city's ongoing water situation here.